Saturday, November 29, 2008

Now That It's Over

I want to share a lesson I learned as a producer this time. You might want to write this down or bookmark this page. Learn how to pick your people.

Let me give you an example from casting. You have two people come in and audition for the same role. One isn't as talented as the other but is easier to work with in the casting session. The other actor is talented, talks the talk and sounds great but is tougher to work with. Let's say your director meets this actor first (and I'm not really talking about actors from our show) and sees the talent and listens to the sales pitch and is sold. The director comes to you and tells you how great this actor is and how much you're going to love this person. You meet the person, expecting to love the person, and are pleased by what you see in the portfolio -- er, audition -- and how much research has gone into this actor's work for this role. Wow! That's pretty keen. The actor is very effusive with you. It looks like this might work out.

Okay, I'm not really talking about actors at all. Let's drop the charade. Your designer (that's nice and vague, right?) seems like a wonderful person. As an actor, you drop a couple hundred on the table to pay for some pieces this designer is supposed to design so you can keep them later because that's how much confidence you have in this person based on recommendation and what you've seen in the research. You offer assistance and assistants for the months leading up to the show so this person isn't overwhelmed and so everything gets done. You offer shopping help since you know the places to get deals on things for this kind of show. You help when allowed by the designer, providing hours of service, comfort and chocolate. You take home things to help lighten the load when you should be working on your lines, but as a producer you have to make sure it gets done. You spend time at your day job fielding phone calls so the work is done by opening night. You defend this person when she attacks your theatre executives on more than one occasion, and you bite your lip and let it slide when she says the executives are out to sabotage the production three days before opening when you have nearly nothing to show for your personal financial investment. The executives are out to sabotage it? Really?

That's not all, folks. As an actor, you wind up in a hoodie for the dress rehearsal because your costume isn't done. There are finishing touches to be done on other costumes but there's one person (you) who doesn't have anything to wear for most of an act of the play. You've gotten sick from the stress of the thing and never took the initiative to take the reigns, seize the materials and do it yourself because you thought this person might deliver without upsetting more people. Opening night you have something to wear. You spend time every weekend making repairs to your costume, finishing things that weren't done. Other actresses in the show have to do the same thing. This person has worked out wonderfully as a stylist for two photo shoots to promote the show, but not so much in building costumes by a deadline.

And right before the show closes, you are dissed by your costume designer to the director, fellow actors and random people you've never met. You're called insistent because you wanted to make sure the materials purchased were actually used. (There isn't a money hose in non-profit theatre to run out and buy more fabric when the designer jumps ship on a design.) You're picked on for asking if a costume could be in another color long before materials were purchased, fine with a different color being used if necessary but being told by the designer at the time that it wasn't a problem at all. (Remember, you're paying for the materials so this request isn't that uncalled for.) You're also accused of changing the costume yourself at the last minute before opening night. Gee, that would've been possible if you actually had a costume! Your director and theatre executives have been ragged on and ranted about and your photographer has been reamed. All of these people are working for free, and the stress is really unnecessary. You feel like you've been attacked by a rabid dog.

So, in closing, I've learned to pay attention to my people training. I know how to choose my people but I have to remember to apply what I know. It's always been my policy to go with the person who is easier to work with and may or may not be as talented.

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